A man dons his pants one leg at a time, as the saying goes, no matter his age or station in life. But when that man has personally selected the fabric, style and fit of those pants, he’s in a league of his own.
Choice and control are what draw local men to “bespoke,” an old-fashioned term for the modern concept of custom-tailored clothes crafted to individual tastes and measurements.
“The advantage to clients, besides the most obvious being fit, is true value in having a selection of hundreds of different fabrics and hundreds of styles to put together,” said Bruce Liles, owner of Liles Clothing Studio at North Hills. “It’s an investment wardrobe — you’re developing your own style statement. The result is a wardrobe that’s unique. No one else is wearing the combinations you have.”
Swatches, style books and bolts of material are among the tools of the made-to-measure trade in suits, sportswear and shirts; “off the peg,” or non-custom pieces, can serve as complements.
Details available for the choosing include Hollywood waistbands done with no exterior seams, patterned silk linings, colored under collars, buttons, lapel width and even pocket design.
And don’t forget accessories — custom options abound in neckwear and belts, too, with exotic leathers, colors and widths, stitch detail and buckle preferences. Handmade shoes are constructed around a shoe last, or model of the foot, ensuring the perfect width, instep and toe fits.
Do forget, however, the navy and gray standards of many male wardrobes: From purple paisley to orange tweeds, pattern and color are seemingly endless here.
“The choices are much more driven by clients than by us,” Liles said. “We’re never surprised by what someone can come up with, and we can accommodate.”
Clients even bring in measurements of items they carry, such as eyeglasses, cigars and Blackberrys, for help in designing pockets in their apparel.
The customers vary from those with exact desires counting on the studio to achieve them, to those who wish staff to direct their choices, Liles says.
“It’s not any one profession or age,” he said. “We see 18-year-olds to 80-year-olds, those with a seemingly endless amount of money to those on a tighter budget. They have varied interests, but what joins them is that they like control, and see clothing as part of an overall lifestyle. It’s never just a uniform.
“Either way, there’s value in the consultation,” Liles said. “There’s a reason behind everything we carry. We introduce tailors from a knowledge standpoint and from studying the market, people who do very individual things to set the customer apart.”
Longtime Liles client Blake Paro notes the importance of trust in making his apparel choices.
“This is a 15-year relationship,” Paro said. “It’s about the quality, obviously, and the service. I turn to them first. They know my style and what fits me, and I trust their judgment.”
Such a longstanding relationship is standard here; Liles keeps clients’ tastes and measurements on file, shipping pieces across the U.S. and even internationally.
Meanwhile, in downtown Apex, Charles Ryan & Co. opened in summer 2011, offering custom suits, jackets and trousers.
From collar cuts to cuff options, thread counts to all-working buttons, wools to lining, stitching to canvas and fused foundations, owner Charles “Chas” Cooper said, “You literally get to pick everything.”
The store partners with Lumina Clothing of Raleigh to also offer custom shirts and ties.
Beyond the multitude of choices, clients love custom clothing’s guaranteed fit, achieved through a multi-measurement process.
Liles and staff carefully measure for up to 22 nuances in fit, in the studio or at a client’s home or office. Even a quarter-inch difference in shoulder height, he says, can affect the pull of a jacket across the back, or impact sleeve length.
At Charles Ryan & Co., measurements are taken using a step-in 3D scanning system created by Cary-based tech firm [TC]2.
“It uses sensors and lighting — no cameras,” said Cooper, to create a digital avatar, or computer profile, of clients’ measurements. The body measurements are converted into patterns from which garments are cut; they are stored for future shopping needs.
Chris Dial of Cary found the scan easy and accurate; it even detected that one of his arms is slightly longer than the other, improving his fit.
“As my career has progressed, I was interested in improving the quality of my wardrobe,” said Dial, who prefers the flexibility of jackets and pants over suits. “At first, I was very impressed with the choices. Tailored clothes in the past have fit fine, but I hadn’t seen the broad spectrum of fabrics and patterns. Then I received the clothes, and this fit is incredible.”
And though custom clothing does cost more than purchasing off the rack, its value is ultimately in the eyes of the man who wears it.
“Everyone who tries it is hooked,” Liles said. “You’re paying for the product, but also the knowledge and guidance leading to a decision that gives you more value. It’s all about the relationship, building up the trust. Our job is to make you look your best.”
WHERE TO SHOP
Liles Clothing Studio, North Hills
Charles Ryan & Co., Apex